These fragile peachlike fruits, with their
perfumy aroma and ultra-sweet flavour, contain impressive amounts
of beta-carotene. They are also a fair source of potassium,
and supply a good amount of fibre. Fresh apricots are fragile
and do not travel well. But dried apricots, concentrated sources
of the same nutrients, are widely available. Apricots, both
fresh and dried, contain natural salicylate (an aspirin like
compound), which may cause an allergic response in sensitive
Fully ripe apricots travel poorly, so unless you live near an
apricot-growing region, you may have a difficult time finding
ripe ones—fruits that are soft to the touch and brimming
with juice. If you find apricots that are plump, firm, and orange-gold
in color, they'll be ready to eat after about two days of ripening
at room temperature. Don't buy hard fruits that are tinged with
green—they will never develop full flavour.
Even when not fully ripe, apricots should
yield to gentle pressure and exude a perfumy fragrance; their
skin should be smooth and velvety. Avoid any that have shriveled
skin or bruises; however, minor blemishes that do not break
the skin will not affect the flavour.
Dried apricots come in a number of different
forms. The most common are the bright orange apricot halves;
their rich color is the result of the apricots being treated
with sulphur dioxide ( see E220). If
you are allergic to sulfites, you can look for unsulfured apricots
in health food stores. Because they're untreated, they're brown
rather than orange. You may also find small, whole apricots
called Turkish apricots. These are a much paler orange and are
considerably sweeter than ordinairy apricot halves.
Canned apricots are sold packed in heavy
syrup, light syrup, or fruit juice. The sugary syrups add a
lot of empty calories, and the fruit is so naturally sweet that
it really doesn't need the extra sugar.
If you buy fresh apricots that are not quite ripe, store them
in a paper bag at room temperature, away from heat or direct
sunlight, for two to three days. Once ripe, they may be stored
in the refrigerator in a plastic bag, where they will keep a
day or two at most. Don't wash the fruits until you're ready
to eat them.
Rinse fresh apricots under cold running water before using them.
Ripe apricots are soft and delicate, so if you need to peel
them for a recipe, do so carefully. Drop the fruits in boiling
water leave them for just 15 to 20 seconds, then remove them
and cool them under cold water. Use a knife to pull away their
skin; it should slip right off. To halve apricots, cut down
to the pit around the longitudinal seam and twist the two halves
to separate them. Dip peeled or cut-up apricots into diluted
lemon juice to keep them from browning.
Apricots prepared by this method make a delicious accompaniment
to chicken cooked on the grill; they can also be served as a
dessert at a barbecue or picnic. Thread whole or halved fresh
apricots on skewers, brush with honey, and grill until tender.
Cooking time: 3 to 5 minutes.
Place apricots—peeled or unpeeled, whole or halved—in
barely simmering fruit juice, cover, and cook until tender.
Add whole cloves or a cinnamon stick to the liquid for extra
flavour. Once the apricots are poached, the liquid can be cooked
down to produce a sauce. Cooking time: 5 to 7 minutes.
Reconstituting dried apricots:
Serve dried apricots for breakfast or dessert, at any time of
year. Simmer them in a small amount of water, white wine, or
fruit juice until tender. Cooking time: 15 minutes.